Just like with the girls side, there feels like a big wind of change in the ACAC where we aren’t looking at Jay County to be a dominant team anymore.
This is a unique conference with a lot of new faces most places this year and some really good energy around all the teams.
NOTE: The order of teams listed is Bounce’s personal predicted order of finish. Don’t sue me.
Woodlan is one of those teams where I don’t want to get ahead of myself but its hard not to anoint. This team was built for this season with a senior class that got a lot of varsity experience even in their sophomore season. Mitch Mendenhall (Top 50 Boys Hoops #42), Aiden Bayman, Trevor Wiedenhoeft and Ben Reidy (AKA Bounce’s biggest fan) all have big time experience and fellow senior Colin Hahn is likely to see his steady production rise significantly. Factor in leading scorer and rebounder Joe Reidy (Top 50 Boys Hoops #20) back and ready for a big second season and this team has plenty of pieces in the right spots. If Woodlan can stay productive and efficient, this team could be a lot of fun and the team to beat in the ACAC. But they have to be finishers.
Adams Central will start basketball season at some point, though it is likely their opener could get pushed back as they will bring a lot of guys from the gridiron. Ben Voirol has had time to get comfortable and now he will be the go to guy at the rim. Lucas Van De Weg will need to see time as a scoring point guard to replace the loss of Kevin Brown’s output. Joseph Collier was interesting to watch this summer using his frame and aggression and will be a big help.
South Adams had a team full of freshmen and sophomores last season, but the experience they gained was big. They were a two win team, but looked so much more advanced in Sectional play than they did early in the year. New coach Josh Hendrixson knows the program and these guys. If you heard their name on the football field, they are likely to contribute on the court. Nick Miller is a hoss down low while Drew Stutzman does a quality job helping run the offense. They will benefit a lot from the return of James Arnold who missed all of last season.
Bluffton will lean on Tanner Cooley to help them try and repeat as Sectional champions; he was one the top performers for them a season ago. The Tigers replace a lot, but will be aided by the transfer of Konner Norman from Woodlan. Norman is an aggressive point who is a quality defender. Not many other guys with experience return, so the Tigers will rely a lot on the athleticism of junior Hayden Nern and senior Kain Thornton.
Heritage replaces their entire team essentially but coach Adam Gray knows how to win and he is going to get the best out of his new group. Parker Tracey is a fire starter so having him back helps quite a bit. Hunter Teichman returns as a solid inside presence and the athleticism of Jaylen Holliness-Bell is really starting to break out.
Jay County has Noah Arbuckle back after he played in all 23 games last season, but his experience is about the most of it. Brayden Sprunger can be a helpful scorer, as can Ethan Dirksen. The Patriots could have a future interior star in the making with 6-foot-4 freshman Bennett Weitzel.
Southern Wells returns Kreigh Roush inside, which is a big start for programs that don’t have a player his size to counteract his physicality. Dylan Junk also returns for a third year on the varsity level.
Joe Reidy of Woodlan had a tremendous freshman season. He has the length to be a problem inside, but his ability to drive from the perimeter and handle the ball makes him a problem for traditional posts. Reidy is the best player in this conference right now and the impact he could have this season isn’t really measurable.
Nick Miller of South Adams used his physical stature to lead the Starfires last season and now with an expectation of winning and enhanced athleticism, he will be a star in the ACAC. Miller is tough around the basket, a rim protecting defender who won’t be backed down.
Ben Voirol of Adams Central came along quite a bit last season with time to develop behind bigger big Dylan Miller. Now, he will be expected to handle himself at the rim. Voirol has good lateral movement and a relative quick first step in his post moves.
Parker Tracey of Heritage is an big energy guy. Whether he was on the bench or in the game last season, his motivation was big for the Patriots. Now the football team’s quarterback gets a big chance to lead. He is a scoring threat based on pure will if nothing else.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Aiden Bayman of Woodlan isn’t one you’d usually consider on the rise since he’s played varsity basketball for a couple of seasons. But with Konner Norman’s exit, Bayman could really separate himself as a point guard and a clutch perimeter defender. He is capable of doing the things Norman brought to the team and if he does, his stock as a top ACAC player will be on the rise.
James Arnold of South Adams missed all of last season after tearing his ACL his first practice back with the team in January. If Arnold is half the player this season he was on the football field, he is going to take control. Just like as a quarterback, Arnold is intelligent with high I.Q. in seeing all aspects of the court.
Hayden Nern of Bluffton has a long frame and the ability to move around well for the Tigers. He can defend four positions on the floor and will need to step up big time for Bluffton to push for contention.
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